Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happiest Place on Earth

Photo Credit: Mallory Huizenga

It has been 2-1/2 years since we took a family vacation. We have been planning a vacation to the happiest place on earth for the last six months. The reservations were all made, the flights books, all of it paid for in full. Then a week before we were due to leave my mother had emergency heart surgery, and thoughts of a week in the sun flew out the window.

My sister-in-law encouraged us to hold off on canceling our trip until we saw how mom was doing. We set a deadline of Wednesday, three days before we were due to leave, to make our final decision. Thanks to amazing surgeons, hospital staff, my mom's feisty demeanor, and the grace of God, my mom made fast and steady improvement. We knew she would still either be in the hospital or the rehab facility while we were gone, so my dad wouldn't be dealing with her on his own at home. So with my dad's insistence, and my brother and sister-in-law's blessing we flew out early Saturday morning for our family vacation to Walt Disney World.

The last time we were at Disney was October of 2009, Mallory was still in high school then, now she is 24 and has been out of college for over two years. In 2009 the economy was not great, The Great Recession in full swing, more families were doing staycations then traveling. In 2017 Disney was different and we were different.

The economy has recovered well in those eight years. We saw many large family groups (all with matching Disney t-shirts) in every park we went to. In 2009 we could get off a ride, wait 15 minutes and get back on again, in 2017 we could get off a ride and wait two hours to get back on again. Thank goodness for fast passes.

Also we had to navigate Disney as three adults, not two parents and a child. It had its challenges but by the end of the week we had found a good rhythm.

At the end of most trips we always reflect on favorite things and things we would do differently, so here are some of those reflections:

Favorite Things:

Resort - Port Orleans Riverside
Our budget-friendly All-Star Resort days are long behind us. Since then we have tried a few different resorts, all wonderful in their own way and this trip was no different. This time we stayed at Port Orleans - Riverside. As an early morning walker, I love a good walking path and this resort had a great one along the river. We don't spend a lot of time at the resort, so pools and restaurants are not a big concern. BUT... the very best thing about this resort was the mattress. I have struggled with back problems my whole adult life, and traveling and sleeping in hotels can be a challenge. But this mattress was out of this world, every morning I woke up feeling well rested and had not a single ache or pain, even after walking 10-13 miles for the day and standing on concrete. I am on the hunt for this mattress for my own bed.

Our family favorite is still the Safari in Animal Kingdom, we probably saw the most animals we have ever seen this trip.

Glen and Mallory loved Avatar the new ride in Animal Kingdom, that was their favorite. I am proud of myself that I did the ride, but I will stick with Soarin' as the gentler favorite of a screen/movement ride.

Classic favorites are Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and It's A Small World.

We are a family who loves food, so restaurants and restaurant experiences make a difference to us.
Favorite - Artist Pointe at Wilderness Lodge. Great attention to Mallory's lactose sensitivity, wonderful service and the food...
Second Favorite - Biergarten in Germany at Epcot. Again, great attention to Mallory's sensitivity, great buffet and the experience of sitting with other families at our table, always a delight.

Things to do different:

Resort - Next time we would probably stay at Wilderness Lodge and possibly rent a cabin on the water, and spend more time at the resort.

Restaurants - Next time we would plan our restaurants to coincide with the park we are at for the day, makes it easier to stay for fireworks. Or if we stayed at the cabin on the water, we could cook some of our own meals.

Cruise - We would also consider doing a Disney Cruise next time, if there were grandchildren on the trip, but that is a ways away yet ;)

Highly Recommend:
Our Disney Travel Planner Lisa Koedyker - lisa.imallearsvacations@gmail.com
Lisa lives in my town, so I had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but she can help you with your trip no matter where you live. I left a lot in Lisa's hands and she was awesome, including having to work with our family emergency. I can't thank Lisa enough for everything.

We will be taking another family vacation next year and have already started working on it, but this one will be closer to home. The plan is to rent a cottage on a lake up north for a week, a cottage that is dog friendly so then Findley can come too. 


overthefencephotos said...

Sarah, I'm happy you got to go ahead with your plans. Sounds like a great vacation. I pray your mom continues to improve. I'm liking the vacation with your child as an adult! We will be trying that next May - with a one year old. Fun and interesting. Thanks for sharing your roses and thorns! Happy Thanksgiving!

Rachel Weishaar said...

I'm traveling vicariously through your post. Thanks for sharing your tips!

Unknown said...

A full family vacation is truly on my bucket list - so glad you were able to go & enjoy yourselves and unwind from the stress of your previous week. Happy Thanksgiving dear!

Viv@Thoughts from the Desktop said...

My daughter and I stayed at POFQ and loved it, it’s great visiting Disney with an older one!

Cathy H. said...

So happy that you were able to travel as planned. I think it would be wonderful to see Disney as an adult.

Anonymous said...

I’m glad for your mom’s amazing recovery and so happy you were able to take your family vacation as planned. I know how much you were looking forward to it. It sounds like just what you wanted and needed!

Karen Lakis said...

I am so glad that your mom is doing well, and you were able to take your family vacation. It sounds as though you had a lot of fun - I love the look on Mallory's face in the photo with Glen. Also - love your new website! :-)

Unknown said...

Oh, what fun, Sarah, and I am so glad that your Mom is doing well.
Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Lynne said...

Happy your vacation plans happened . .
Hope your mom continues to do okay . . .
Sounds like you enjoyed a fun Disney trip.
A week, a cabin and the lake with Findley too sounds like a great plan too
Happy Thanksgiving Sarah . .

Eliza Waters said...

Nobody does it like Disney. :) Glad your mom is feeling better.

Katie said...

It sounds like you al had a really fun time being all together, and I'm so glad that your mom is doing better.
Happy Thanksgiving, Sarah!

Electric | Journal said...

I'm so glad you were able to take the family vacation, and that your mom is recovering. I've never been to Disney World, but Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure is a favorite. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sandra said...

What wonderful family moments! So glad to hear that your mum is recovering her health. Great and happy family shots!

Unknown said...

I highly recommend the Disney Cruise, even without little ones. We took the 4 day cruise for our honeymoon and it was wonderful! If you want to get away from families and kids, it offers many adult only spaces. I am enthralled with your coin phone booth shots. Now I find myself looking for them. Thank you for the inspiration.

Michelle B said...

So glad your mom was well enough for you and your family to go on a vacation, and it looks like you enjoyed yourselves. :) It has been years since we have done the Disney thing. My classic favorites are the Pirates and the Haunted House too, although I could do without the Small World ride unless it is hot(for the air conditioning)our boat got stuck in the ride once and we heard the song over and over for way too long. :) Thanks for sharing your recommendations.